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I chose to listen to this audiobook in preparation for a trip to China, and finished it while there. Quite a different take on the Empress Dowager than the tale told by the tour guides and what I assume is official party line, but it was really interesting to visit the Forbidden Palace and other sites with this point of view in mind. Really enjoyed it.
I was looking forward to this, but took a long time to get through it. Finally managed it.
The text inevitably consists of a lot of dates and lists of names etc.
Some interesting and enlightening perspectives on events such as the Boxer Rebellion. Part of Chang's aim was to rehabilitate the image of CiXi, which this succeeds in some respects.
I thought it was strange to choose a narrator who is obviously not a native mandarin speaker and who has problems with pronouncing names, places and events using the pinyin. This became confusing at times.
Impressed and moved by the author’s book Wild Swans I looked forward to listening to her account of the life and times of the Empress Dowager Cixi and her influence on the course of Chinese history. Knowing little about the latter pre the 20th Century I found this a most interesting insight into the customs and events of 19th century China as well as the learning more about the restricted life of women in the Chinese court. The empress was certainly a formidable character who was influential in modernising her country: all the more amazing for a woman who entered the court as a concubine of the lowest rank, with limited education and hide-bound by the social norms that kept her literally hidden for view.
I have read elsewhere the views of those with knowledge of the era who aver that the author has presented a rose-tinted account of the Empress. Nevertheless the book is an engaging listen from which I learnt a lot about the country.
The narrator is excellent.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
A brilliant account of the life and times of the Dowager Empress Cixi, who began life at the Chinese court as a minor concubine. Author Jung Chang describes in masterful prose, how Cixi, in a ruthlessly male environment, leapfrogged over the heads of the emperor, princes and grandees to rule over the Chinese empire, demonstrating outstanding qualities as a gifted political tactician and major reformer of a feudal society. This remarkable woman shrewdly dealt with foreign powers, greedy for a piece of China, fended off the constant Japanese threat of invasion, and developed her plan to modernise her country in the face of fierce criticism from the Chinese aristocracy,
2 of 2 people found this review helpful